Mediterranean waters: The Turquoise Coast in southwest Turkey

THERE comes a point in life when you just have to jump. I’m on a cliff edge, staring down a 2,000 metre (6,500ft) drop, braced for my first paragliding experience. I’ve got on a harness, a helmet and the parachute is laid out on the ground. 

Next I’ve got all the equipment on, then comes the stomach churning moment when the pilot shouts: “Run!” 

I take a deep breath and in less than a second the ground falls away and we are walking in the air. 

“Woohoo”, I scream as we leave behind the brown Babadağ mountain and look down on the sunbathers holidaying along the Turquoise Coast in southwest Turkey – a different experience from exploring the modern delights in ancient Istanbul

In the hands of just the wind and the experienced pilot on my tandem flight, we gently fly out over the sea. 

I am having the time of my life spotting the Blue Lagoon, the Butterfly Valley and even, in the far distance, the Greek island Rhodes. 

“Did it, liked it, loved it”

Chalkmarks: Woohoo: My first paragliding experience
Woohoo: My first paragliding experience
Chalkmarks: Flying over the sea: Spotting the Blue Lagoon, the Butterfly Valley and even, the Greek island Rhodes
Flying over the sea: Spotting the Blue Lagoon, the Butterfly Valley and even, the Greek island Rhodes
Chalkmarks: Safe landing: Back on the beach in Ölüdeniz, the world famous centre for paragliding
Safe landing: Back on the beach in Ölüdeniz, the world famous centre for paragliding

In half an hour we land safely on the beachfront in Ölüdeniz, the world famous centre for paragliding. 

I’d wanted to come to this small laid-back village resort in Fethiye, Muğla province, as it has become one of the most photographed beaches in the Mediterranean thanks in part to the piercing green-blue-colour of the sea, which reaches a welcoming 28C (82F) in the summer. 

With the typical Med climate of hot and dry, it has also become a popular spot for Britons wanting to lie under the bright sun, eat ice cream and drink Efes Turkish lager. 

It became James Bond country too when Daniel Craig arrived to shoot scenes for the 007 film Skyfall (released in October 2012). 

There are hundreds of hotels and apartments in Ölüdeniz with most visitors arriving on two-week package holidays. And many have made it their second home, returning year after year. 

I stayed in the Alize Hotel just up the road from the beach. This is an all-inclusive hotel where you can sit around the pool all day eating and drinking while watching a few energetic guests doing pool-aerobics from the sunlounger. 

Chalkmarks: In town: Hotel Alize in Ölüdeniz
In town: Hotel Alize in Ölüdeniz
Chalkmarks: Cooling down: Sunlounger view of the pool
Cooling down: Sunlounger view of the pool
Chalkmarks: Sightseeing: Option to take a private boat tour
Sightseeing: Option to take a private boat tour

The great thing about Ölüdeniz is that it shuffles the deck on beach holidays. You can lie dormant under the sun, take a dip in the pool and stroll around the shops or you can opt for a heart pounding experience and launch yourself off a rockface, take a jeep safari, and travel down rapids in an inflatable rubber ring. 

For me, to come here to just flop in the sun would feel like I’d left half a glass of wine. I couldn’t do that.  

There are dozens of boat trips along the shoreline and excursions on offer so instead of getting stuck at the poolside, I leap at the chance of a tour. 

The best way to see the surrounding area is on a jeep safari. Passengers are actively encouraged to bring along pump action water guns to spray each other during the hot afternoon. It’s not for everyone and, to be honest, after my second drenching it was enough already  and it wasn’t even lunchtime. 

This is a full day trip, which starts out with a “soaking wet” drive to see ruins. This is followed by a walk through the clear cold waters of Europe‘s second largest canyon known as the Hidden City.

Next on the itinerary I paddle down the shallow Saklikent river in an inflatable tube and lastly I get to sit in a mud bath for half an hour to refresh my skin. Despite the soakings, the outing is good fun especially when you get your own back and I start throwing around buckets of water. 

The ghost town in Kayaköy is also worth seeing and more civilised. The abandoned Greek village with 3,500 broken stone houses has been uninhabited since 1923 leaving a sadness hanging over it. 

Sitting on a hillside, much of it has crumbled away after numerous earthquakes. The derelict site became the inspiration for Louis de Bernières 2004 book Birds Without Wings. 

We for lunch at Cinbal – the oldest restaurant in the area which serves Turkish style barbecue in a garden where bunches of low-hanging grapes hang down reach down to touch you. We don’t sit at a conventional table but lie on bed-like furniture while meze dishes of smoky aubergine, chillies covered in yogurt and the tastiest lamb are delivered. We finish with Baklava – a sweet pastry filled with nuts and oozing with honey. 

Too soon the evening has come round and if you’re used to going out and drinking in Britain then you’ll be able to do the same in Ölüdeniz except because the weather’s hot, you can sit outside watching paragliders and it won’t break the bank. There are bars with British names and English speaking waiters who make ordering a doddle. 

The nightlife is restaurant-based where you settle in for the night, have drinks after the meal and either watch the world go by, watch the sun set or join in the karaoke even belly dancing. 

For a stunning sunset get to Bella Mamma’s Italian restaurant at Delta Hotel in Calış Beach – another popular resort nearby. It’s right on the seafront among dozens of other restaurants but the food is superb with huge servings. 

Another highlight for dinner is Hilmi in the Fish Market in Fethiye harbour where you handpick what to eat from the day’s catch and they cook it for you. Every Tuesday, this town also has a huge market with hundreds of stall sellers offering jewellery, souvenirs, handcrafts, leather, plates, and clothes. 

Back in Ölüdeniz, after dinner means a wander down the main street Çarşı Caddesi. Many of the shops proudly advertise their fake branded clothes and watches. It might not be Harrods but I went in to Harools, Jeff Harvey Nicks, Next boutique and shoes, and a BHS, which stands for Bridget’s Home Stores. 

I bought a t-shirt to remember how I turned my lazy beach holiday into an action-packed trip of a lifetime

It says: “Did it, liked it, loved it”. 

Chalkmarks: Ghost town: The abandoned village of Kayaköy
Ghost town: The abandoned village of Kayaköy
Chalkmarks: Explore: See the ruins on the back of a camel
Explore: See the ruins on the back of a camel
Chalkmarks: Lights out: Spectacular sunset on the beach
Lights out: Spectacular sunset on the beach
Chalkmarks: Familiar stores: Harrools
Familiar stores? At Harrools!
Chalkmarks: BHS? That’ll be Bridget Home Stores of course
BHS? That’ll be Bridget Home Stores of course

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